Remember this guy from a few days ago? I’m pretty sure I know who he is now. As expected, he’s not edible – unless you like odd side-effects.
His name is ‘Gym’, as in Gymnopilus spectabilis. The Japanese call him,”Big Laughing Gym,” according to my Audubon Society Guide. (Type the name into your search engine if you’re curious as to why…)
The first step in identifying a mushroom, for me, is learning what it isn’t. The flesh is thick and spongy, so it’s not a honey mushroom. Ditto for the thick stem, called a stipe in technical terms. The gills don’t bruise blue when you mash them, so it’s not a Gilled Bolete – more’s the pity, that one is edible! It’s not filled with a sticky, sap-like substance, leaving out any members of the family called ‘Milkies’.
So, what is the factor that lead to a final guess? The color of the spore print. An orange-brown mass, dropped from the gills of the mushroom in question onto a piece of paper on my desk. Sadly, that meant it was also not a Jack O’Lantern – a really cool bio-luminescent fungus I would dearly love to photograph! (Uh, that means it glows in the dark, in case you don’t want to look it up…)
There are more in-depth methods for identification – microscopic features on the spores, chemicals to apply that produce certain color changes – but for my purposes, this was enough.
Not like I’d planned on having them for dinner, after all…